Column: Aspire Unplugged, by Cheryl Patterson
“Trust isn’t just essential to relationships; it’s necessary for a happy, meaningful life.” – Joshua Coleman
Trust is a loaded concept that affects pretty much everything we do. It impacts our personal relationships, work and overall ability to function. Without trust, we wouldn’t be able to leave our homes, let alone be successful in our endeavours.
According to research, trust requires a level of risk. Our expectations are based on evidence in favor of or against trustworthiness of people or situations – in lieu of injury or loss – and we decide whether the desired outcome seems reliable. However, trust can be a payoff in itself.
A 2007 study conducted by Paul Zak, founding director at the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies, at Claremont Graduate University, found a strong correlation between trust and happiness. The study conducted in 25 countries found that trust was a strong predictor of happiness. The more trusting we are, the happier we are (and vice versa).
Trust is also correlated to positive outcomes, such as stable relationships – even in the face of conflict – and better health and greater longevity, resulting from lower blood pressure.
However, trust doesn’t come easily for everyone, or in every situation. As much as we want to have positive expectations, it can be challenging at times. The following are some tips to help you to trust a little more.
Boost your oxytocin. Research indicates that social bonding – through things like conversation, hugs and physical intimacy – stimulates the secretion of the hormone oxytocin, which supports greater feelings of trust and well-being, and reduces fear.
Practice self-awareness. Being aware of how challenging situations impact you (i.e. instilling fear) is an important step toward building self-trust. Once you’re aware of how you’re affected, you can find constructive ways to deal with it (i.e. challenging fear by being pro-active). The more you do this, the more you will trust that you can, and will feel inspired – versus stuck – to move forward toward your endeavours.
Build resilience. The more you take care of your physical, emotional, spiritual and social needs – life’s buffers – the more resilient and confident you’ll be in the face of adversity, allowing you to take more risks.
Challenge your views. Optimism goes hand-in-hand with trust (pessimism doesn’t). A positive view of yourself, other people, situations and the world encourages more meaningful experiences, which makes it easier to trust.
Hold steadfast to your values. Give a voice to your beliefs and maintain your standards. If you value yourself, others will, too, which will boost your confidence and self-trust.
Let go. Get out of your comfort zone, try new things and allow yourself (and others) to make mistakes. As a mother, I know that part of my adolescent daughter’s development is to learn to deal with challenges as she grows. I also understand that in addition to lending my support where needed, equally important is giving her space to maneuver through her experiences, as much as possible, because the more I allow her to do so, the more she’ll trust that she can. The same applies to ourselves – making mistakes is a normal part of life. The important part is to trust that we can handle it.
Practice trusting in small ways. Make a ‘to do’ list of areas that you could be more open to (i.e. being more accepting to certain people or situations), and when opportunities present themselves to be more trusting, challenge yourself to at least try. Trust is like a muscle that needs to be strengthened – the more it’s used, the stronger it gets. In contrast, refusing to be vulnerable undermines your ability to trust, making it weaker and your life unhappier.
Curb suspicion. Your ability to trust is correlated to your readiness to feel betrayed in some way. Everybody doesn’t have an ‘agenda.’ And living with suspicion, doubt and fear – white knuckling it through life – only leads to greater stress, anxiety, ill health and likely a self-fulfilling prophecy that the world can’t be trusted.
We have an uncanny ability to create what we believe, or as Eric Hoffer put it, “Someone who thinks the world is always cheating him is right. He is missing that wonderful feeling of trusting in someone or something.”